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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 7th Dec 2016

 

solar farm china wind turbinesREUTERS/Stringer

 Google has made a major commitment to green energy, pledging to buy 100% of its energy requirements from renewable sources in 2017.

The company is already "the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable power," SVP of technical infrastructure Urs Hölzle wrote in a blog post announcing the news, and it now plans to "[directly buy] enough wind and solar electricity annually to account for every unit of electricity our operations consume, globally."

This includes both Google's offices and its much more power-hungry data centres.

It's important to note: This isn't the same as having all of Google's operations directly powered by renewable energy. Because of the way power grids work, that's not necessarily possible — the only source of power for a data centre might be a nearby coal power station, for example.

"The reality of today’s electricity grid means that we are unable to power our operations directly from wind and solar farms during every hour of the day," Google said in a white paper about its green ambitions. But it means that Google will be buying enough energy from renewable sources to account to the entirety of its operations.

As data centres continue to grow around the world, they suck up extraordinary amounts of energy. They use 3% of the world's electricity supply — a figure that is estimate to triple over the next decade. Tech companies are increasingly pledging to draw much — or all — of their energy from renewable sources, but none are on the same scale, so soon, as Google's commitment on Tuesday.

"The science tells us that tackling climate change is an urgent global priority," Hölzle wrote. "We believe the private sector, in partnership with policy leaders, must take bold steps and that we can do so in a way that leads to growth and opportunity. And we have a responsibility to do so — to our users and the environment."

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 6th Dec 2016

​​​​​​genuine apple charger

Investigators have warned consumers they face potentially fatal risks after 99% of fake Apple chargers failed a basic safety test.

Trading Standards, which commissioned the checks, said counterfeit electrical goods bought online were an "unknown entity".

Of 400 counterfeit chargers, only three were found to have enough insulation to protect against electric shocks.

It comes as Apple has complained of a "flood" of fakes being sold on Amazon.

Apple revealed in October that it was suing a third-party vendor, which it said was putting customers "at risk" by selling power adapters masquerading as those sold by the Californian tech firm.

The Trading Standards tests were performed by safety specialists UL.

They applied a high voltage to the chargers, which were bought online from eight different countries, including the US, China and Australia, to test for sufficient insulation.

'Life-threatening'

Leon Livermore, the chief executive of Chartered Trading Standards Institute, urged shoppers to buy electrical goods only from trusted suppliers.

"It might cost a few pounds more, but counterfeit and second-hand goods are an unknown entity that could cost you your home or even your life, or the life of a loved-one," he said.

A separate operation found that of 3,019 electrical goods bought second hand, 15% were non-compliant.

Officers said the unsafe electrical items, which came from charity shops, antique dealers and second-hand shops, had failings such as counterfeit plugs and basic insulation.


How to spot a dangerous fake charger

  1. Plug pins - Plug the charger into a socket, but don't switch it on or connect to a device. If the charger does not fit easily, the pins may be the wrong size. There should be at least 9.5mm (0.3in) between the edge of the pins and the edge of the charger
  2. Markings - Look for a manufacturers' brand name or logo, model and batch number. Check for the "CE" safety mark, but be aware it can be easily forged
  3. Warnings and instructions - User instructions should include conditions and limitations of use, how to operate the charger safely, basic electric safety guidance and details of safe disposal

Source: Trading Standards


Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: "Counterfeit electrical goods are likely to be poor quality and in the worst cases unsafe.

"Look out for tell-tale signs of counterfeiting such as mistakes in brand names or logos, and check plugs for safety marks - all genuine electrical items made in the EU should have a CE mark on them."

Consumers were also urged not to overcharge appliances and to never cover devices when charging or use a charger with a cracked case or frayed cable.

There is no suggestion the company involved in the Apple case sold the chargers used in the Trading Standards tests.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 6th Dec 2016

 

The Amazon Go store in Seattle, USImage copyrightAMAZON

Amazon has revealed plans for a grocery shop without a checkout process, where customers will instead pay for the goods they have selected via an app.

The Just Walk Out shopping experience uses the same types of technologies found in self-driving cars.

The system detects when items are taken or returned to shelves and tracks them in a virtual shopping trolley.

Once the shopper leaves the store, their Amazon account will be charged and receipt sent to them.

The first shop is expected to open to the public in Seattle in the US in early 2017.

"Grocery retail is a crowded sector, and customers have incredibly high expectations of the Amazon brand," said Natalie Berg, an analyst at Planet Retail.

"If they're going to differentiate, they'll need to translate the fantastic customer experience that they have created online in a physical store setting. This is no easy feat. Removing the traditional checkout process does exactly that."

App entry system

Customers will swipe into the store using the Go app. It will use computer vision, sensors and deep learning algorithms to keep track of what customers are picking up off the shelves.

Amazon has spent four years developing the shop.

"Despite significant investment in store technology, the checkout experience has been largely ignored," said Ms Berg.

"Retailers have made a lot of progress on mobile payments as a standalone option; however, very few have been successful in moving towards a comprehensive mobile wallet and thereby addressing the problem of long queues. This is where Amazon comes in."

The shop will offer ready-to-eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack options made fresh every day by on-site chefs or by local kitchens and bakeries.

Grocery essentials such as bread and milk will also be on sale alongside Amazon Meal Kits, with all the ingredients needed to make a meal for two in about 30 minutes.

Past experiments

This is not the first time a grocery retailer has attempted innovation in the US.

Tesco disposed of its Fresh & Easy shops in 2013 after the small convenience stores focused on healthy foods proved unpopular with US shoppers more used to extensive choice.

Amazon already has physical book shops in the US.

But some users feel the company has not quite got the retail experience right, saying it feels more like an "annex to a website".

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 6th Dec 2016

mark zuckerberg oculusMark Zuckerberg using the Oculus VR headset. Facebook

Every month or two, Facebook asks its engineers to take the day off from their regular duties to tackle any project they want.

These so-called hackathons aren't unusual among Silicon Valley tech companies — Google is famous for them too. For Facebook, they often lead to important products, including its first video player, its developer platform, and its chat system.

After Facebook's engineers prototype their ideas, they present and vote on them among their colleagues. The highest voted ideas get presented to CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of the executive team.

As Facebook product chief Chris Cox puts it, "This is like our 'American Idol.'"

For Facebook's most recent hackathon, the most popular ideas were shown to Zuckerberg, Cox, and other top company execs during a livestream on Zuckerberg's personal Facebook page on Monday. Not all of these creations will become real products or features, but it sounds like Zuckerberg is already ready to greenlight some of them.

Here are the "hacks" that Facebook employees created:

  • Hand controllers for the Oculus VR headset that get physically hot and cold: An employee from Facebook-owned Oculus demoed modified hand controllers for its headset that simulate the feeling of heat and cold in virtual reality using embedded thermal coolers. "This is quite warm," remarked Zuckerberg while warming his hands at a virtual fire.
  • Location requests in Messenger for when a friend is missing: If you can't find a friend and become worried about their safety, Messenger could one day let you send a request to see their location. A timer would begin on the friend's phone that gives them a chance to approve or deny the request. If the timer expires on its own, their location would be sent to you automatically.
  • GIFs are coming to Facebook comments: Soon you'll be able to comment with GIFs in comments on Facebook. "“I think this will be widely used," Zuckerberg said.
  • Offline messaging: A Facebook engineer demoed offline messaging in the company's stripped down Messenger Lite app for emerging markets. Once implemented, the feature will allow people without internet access to message each other using the WiFi signals in their phones. Zuckerberg seemed to really like this idea during the demo and even said that “this is something that I’ve thought we should build for awhile."
  • Shared photo and video galleries based on what people post in a person's comments. Facebook engineers demoed the use of machine learning to automatically create shared photo and video albums based on what people share in the comments of a post. So if you ask for photos people took at a wedding, what your friends share in your comments would be turned into a shared album for everyone to see.
  • An update on Zuckerberg's personal smart home AI assistant: After the hackathon demos, Zuckerberg shared on update on the artificially intelligent assistant he's been building for his home all year. “It can do a bunch at this point," he said without getting into specifics. He plans to give a full demo before the end of the year. (No word on whether it will indeed be voiced by Robert Downey Jr. of 'Iron Man' fame.) 
Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 30th Nov 2016

The Queen has passed a highly controversial piece of legislation that gives British intelligence agencies the legal right to conduct mass surveillance on people in the UK.

The legislation will be coming into force in 2017.

The Investigatory Powers Bill (or IP Bill), as the legislation is known, was passed by Parliament on November 19 "with barely a whimper," according to The Guardian.

After the legislation was approved by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, US whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted: "The UK has just legalised the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy. It goes further than many autocracies."

But the Bill wasn't home and dry. It also needed to gain the approval of the country's constitutional monarch — the Queen — in a formality known as the Royal Assent.

To the disappointment of all those who signed a petition to repeal the IP Bill, also known as the Snopper's Charter, the Queen approved the bill on Tuesday, according to a Home Office press release. 

The law, pushed through Parliament by Prime Minister Theresa May when she was Home Secretary, makes it legal for UK intelligence agencies to hack, read, and store any information from any citizen's computer or phone, even if that citizen is completely innocent.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said in a statement:

"This Government is clear that, at a time of heightened security threat, it is essential our law enforcement, security and intelligence services have the powers they need to keep people safe.

"The internet presents new opportunities for terrorists and we must ensure we have the capabilities to confront this challenge. But it is also right that these powers are subject to strict safeguards and rigorous oversight.

"The Investigatory Powers Act is world-leading legislation that provides unprecedented transparency and substantial privacy protection.           

"I want to pay tribute to the independent reviewers, organisations, and Parliamentarians of all parties for their rigorous scrutiny of this important law which is vital for the safety and security of our families, communities and country."

But Rafael Laguna, CEO at software firm Open-Xchange, said in a statement: "The Snoopers’ Charter is an excessive measure drawn-up by a government which has not consulted the tech community. Realistically, the only major effect the IP Bill will have is invading citizens’ privacy. Criminals and terrorists will only find other ways to communicate discretely."

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 29th Nov 2016

Over 120,000 back call to block law

parliament99

Government faces backlash on IP Bill

Over 120,000 people have signed a petition to request the repeal of the Investigatory Powers Bill (IP Bill) that is set to become law in the coming months.

The Open Rights Group (ORG), which organised the campaign, welcomed the public's reaction to the Bill and said it showed how important it is such laws are not passed without the public being fully aware of their implications.

"The IP Bill was debated and passed while the public, media and politicians were preoccupied by Brexit," said ORG executive director Jim Killock.

 

"Now that the Bill has passed, there is renewed concern about the extent of the powers that will be given to the police and security agencies. In particular, people appear to be worried about new powers that mean our web browsing activity can be collected by Internet Service Providers and viewed by the police and a whole range of government departments.

"Parliament may choose to ignore calls for a debate but this could undermine public confidence in these intrusive powers. A debate would also be an opportunity for MPs to discuss the implications of various court actions, which are likely to mean that the law will have to be amended."

This petition was started by Tom Skillinger who said it was vital people in the UK did not accept such a blanket regime of surveillance.

"A bill allowing UK intelligence agencies and police unprecedented levels of power regarding the surveillance of UK citizens has recently passed and is awaiting royal assent, making it law," he wrote.

"This means it's not too late! This is an absolute disgrace to both privacy and freedom and needs to stop!"

The IP Bill, also known as the Snoopers' Charter, will require internet and phone companies to store comprehensive records of websites visited and phone numbers called for 12 months, and to enable police, security services and multiple other public sector bodies to access those records on demand.

It will also provide the security services with the legal power to bulk collect personal communications data, and give police and security services the explicit power to hack into, and bug, computers and smartphones.

Source: v3.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 29th Nov 2016

 

Mark ZuckerbergFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Students have a tough time distinguishing between ads and news, and understanding conflicts of interest in information that is presented as fact, according to a new Stanford study reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The study comes at a time when Facebook and Google are being loudly criticized for helping spread fake news during a contentious presidential election.A recent study by BuzzFeedshowed that in the lead-up to the election, the top fake-news stories on Facebook outperformed legitimate news stories shared by some of the most popular media companies.

But some hoped that the social-media savvy of younger generations might help them better separate truth from falsehood online. This study suggests that’s simply not the case, at least at a young age.

According to the study, 82% of middle-schoolers couldn’t tell the difference between a news article and an ad labeled “sponsored content.” Similarly, “ more than two out of three middle-schoolers couldn’t see any valid reason to mistrust a post written by a bank executive arguing that young adults need more financial-planning help,” the Journal reports.

In middle school, it seems, the fact that the source of a piece of information could lead to bias isn’t understood.

The study included 7,804 students from middle school through college.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 29th Nov 2016

Eye with red light rayImage copyrightTHINKSTOCK

Image captionLasers are used in diverse ways, from surgery to mapping, pest control to warfare

Technology of Business

hink of lasers and what springs to mind? Ming the Merciless and his death ray in Flash Gordon? The planet-destroying Death Star in the Star Wars films? Or James Bond nearly getting bisected in Goldfinger?

Weapons, in other words. And yes, the military has always had a strong interest in deploying these highly-concentrated beams of light to blow missiles or satellites out of the sky.

Only recently, defence and aerospace firm Lockheed Martin trialled a 30-kilowatt laser called Athena that managed to burn a hole in a truck engine a mile away.

And in October, it revealed that it was developing a new generation of "super" lasers that funnel several lasers into one very powerful beam, with the eventual intention of mounting one on a US army vehicle.

Fiery hole in bonnet of pick-up truckImage copyrightLOCKHEED MARTIN

Image captionThis is what Lockheed Martin's Athena laser did to a car a mile away

But lasers have also had a long history of peaceful civilian use in devices as diverse as CD players, medical scanners, fibre optic cables and crime detection kits.

Medicine and surgery are being transformed thanks to highly accurate laser scalpels and laser diagnostics.

Now lasers could even help us see through walls and into the earth.

Highly accurate

M Squared, a laser and photonics specialist, has just launched the UK's first commercial atom interferometer - a device that makes ultra-precise measurements of forces such as gravity.

The device uses lasers to cool atoms to near absolute zero - colder than deep space. Under the weird laws of quantum mechanics, these atoms can then technically occupy two places at the same time. When they're recombined, finely tuned laser beams measure the effects.

Laser light show over the Eden Project, CornwallImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionLasers have far more uses than providing pretty light shows

Its developers say it could enable us to see people behind walls, detect underground infrastructure without digging holes, and develop navigation systems that do not rely on GPS.

"Extremely sensitive measurements of gravitational acceleration can be used to carry out underground mapping to detect oil and mineral deposits; the early detection of sinkholes; surveying of civil infrastructure; and on space missions," says Dr Graeme Malcolm, M Squared's chief executive.

"Atomic interferometers that are sensitive to magnetic fields will also be used for measuring brain activity in the fight against Parkinson's disease."

Seeing the past

Lasers have also been helping us see into the past.

Earlier this year archaeologists uncovered a new vast network of cities and roads in the thick jungles around the ancient Cambodian temple complex of Angkor Wat, following an aerial survey using Lidar (light detection and ranging).

The laser pulses were able to delve beneath the foliage in a way no other technology could. Lidar is also proving crucial in mapping our cities to inform the autonomous vehicles of the future.

Images from the laser equipmentImage copyrightDAMIAN EVANS/CALI

Image captionBeneath the forests of Cambodia, Lidar photography spotted the remains of huge cities

And while Goldfinger's laser may have threatened to give Sean Connery a falsetto singing voice, could it have formed a "laser wall" to protect a farmer's crops from rats and other pests?

A trial funded by the European Commission will see a laser called the Agrilaser Autonomic being deployed in Scotland, the Netherlands and Spain to protect farmland, firing laser beams that are perceived by critters as a physical danger.

This means they stay clear of crops so farmers don't have to use as much pesticide.

Speed of light

Lasers could also have a huge impact on the world of computing.

Silicon photonics may sound like a $10,000-a-day Hollywood clinic, but it refers to a technology that could have a huge impact on computing.

Traditionally, the industry has relied on electrical conductors to carry data along computer chips, but the explosion in data caused by the internet of things means we need a better way of handling it all,

Silicon photonics transmits data using laser light fired down optical fibres. It's so fast, you'd be able to download a high-definition film in less than a second.

Intel silicon laser chipImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionIntel's silicon laser computer chip promises faster data transfers

This is literally "computing at the speed of light".

As well as using it to improve computer chips and replace less efficient copper cabling between data centres, companies like Intel are trying to embed it into computer architecture.

As well as lightning fast speeds, the technology promises much greater energy efficiency and lower costs.

"The main target of silicon photonics is to enable the continuation of the explosion in demand for data, hence the current applications in data centres," says Prof Graham Reed, head of silicon photonics at the University of Southampton.

"Electronics is not able to continue to go faster and faster indefinitely without suffering huge heating, hence the need to communicate optically," he says.

"The longer-term future demands of connecting our lives digitally, whether it be for entertainment, healthcare, business, transport et cetera, means that more data will be required and therefore more and more optical interconnectivity.

"It's almost only limited by our imagination."

Light fantastic

Essentially a tube that concentrates light over and over again until it emerges as a very powerful beam, the laser - or Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation - was first postulated by Albert Einstein.

Theodore Maiman developed the world's first laser in 1960, although other scientists had patented designs earlier than this.

Since then, they have been refined and refined to become the highly accurate precision tools we use today.

TV screens showing eye surgery in progressImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionLaser eye surgery has been around for decades

Companies like Lockheed will always look to "weaponise" such technology, but the firm has also developed lasers for welding and cutting machines; 3D printers; and kit to decommission nuclear power stations, effectively scrubbing contaminated materials from the old buildings.

Light, it seems, has an almost unlimited number of uses.

 

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 22nd Nov 2016

 

iPhone 6SSteve Kovach/Tech Insider

Apple is offering owners of some iPhone 6s phones a free battery replacement because of a battery issue that is causing some phones to randomly shut down.

The Californian company said that only a "very small number" of devices are affected, and which were manufactured between September and October 2015.

It recommends anyone who has seen the issue to take their phone to an Apple Store to get it checked out.

If you've got an iPhone 6s, and you're now worried that it might explode, Samsung-style — don't worry. It's not a "safety issue," according to Apple. All that happens to affected phones is they unexpectedly shut down.

"Apple has determined that a very small number of iPhone 6s devices may unexpectedly shut down. This is not a safety issue and only affects devices within a limited serial number range that were manufactured between September and October 2015," the company said in a statement on its website.

 

 

"If you have experienced this issue, please visit an Apple Retail Store or an Apple Authorized Service Provider and have your device's serial number checked to confirm eligibility for a battery replacement, free of charge."

If you think your phone might be affected, then head on over to Apple's website for more detailed instructions on how to get your battery replaced »

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 22nd Nov 2016

Tesla stores are getting a big facelift. 

The company is currently in the process of overhauling its retail locations to focus more on the energy side of its business. As part of the revamp, Tesla will showcase its new rechargeable home battery, the Powerwall 2, and will install new graphics explaining how its energy products work. 

Tesla Powerwall 2.0A Tesla store showcasing the new Powerwall 2.0.Tesla

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Customers will also now be able to order Tesla's Powerwall in store and online. Previously, the only way to purchase the battery was on Tesla's website. 

Tesla has already updated some stores in key locations across North America, Europe, and Australia. The company chose to focus the rollout on markets with the most demand for energy products, but the company plans to add its energy products to more stores in the near future. 

The revamp comes at a time when Tesla is ramping up its energy business. 

On Monday morning, the company officially closed on its acquisition of SolarCity, a deal worth about $2 billion. 

elon musk solar roofTesla

 

Together, the companies will build solar shingles made of a special type of glass. Tesla's solar roof shingles look like normal shingles, but can capture energy from the sun to generate electricity. What's more, Tesla's shingles are expected to be priced competitively. 

In fact on Friday, Musk said during a special shareholder meeting that it's likely Tesla's solar roof will cost less than a normal roof, even before taking the value of electricity into account. 

Musk first unveiled the solar shingles and Tesla's Powerwall 2, at a company event in late October. While most of the attention was given to the solar shingles at the event, the new Powerwall is not to be ignored. 

Tesla Store graphicAn example of a new display going up in Tesla stores.Tesla

Powerwall 2 has 14 kWh of energy and can provide 5 kWh of continuous power. This means it has twice the energy as the previous model. Tesla says that it is capable of powering the lights, sockets, and refrigerator in a two bedroom home. 

Besides improved storage, the new Powerwall also looks a lot better. Tesla redesigned the Powerwall 2.0 to be thinner and more rectangular than its predecessor. It also has a built-in inverter and can be mounted on the wall or the ground, indoors or outdoors.

The new batteries price at $5,500 and Tesla estimates the units will cost $1,000 to install, bringing the grand total to $6,500. 

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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